Toronto Hosts Space for LGBT Athletes During Sochi Olympics

by Winnie McCroy

EDGE Editor

Monday December 2, 2013

In what is a running Olympic tradition, Pride House Toronto has come forward to host a welcoming space for LGBT athletes during the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, this February. A Russian law passed in late July bans "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relationships to minors" under threat of fine and imprisonment.

"We hope to use that as an opportunity to raise awareness for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) peoples human rights in Russia, to celebrate the Russian community, and the LGBT community in Russia in ways that we don't see happening now," said Barbara Besharat of Pride House Toronto, according to an AP News article by The Canadian Press.

The article references the International Olympic Committee's mandate to protect the sport from discrimination. The Pride House will feature Olympic event viewing on large-screen TVs, in addition to fun events like pick-up hockey games. The location is yet to be determined.

"We need Pride House," said Konstantin Iablotckii, co-president of the Russian LGBT Sports Federation, in the article. "It's already part of the Olympic movement, it's not a political demonstration, it's not a gay parade, it's just a safe peaceful place for celebrating equality in sport. That's all. It's a peaceful event. Why not have it in the Sochi event? The Olympics are all about friendship, unity and peace."

Iablotckii is part of a Russian coalition organizing a three-day Open Games in Moscow in February -- between the Olympics and Paralympics - that will be a platform for "equality in sports, culture and human rights." It will feature volleyball, badminton, basketball, ski racing, swimming, table tennis and tennis, among other sports.

Pride House will also be held during the Parapan American Games in 2015.

Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.